Texas residents may have heard that Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 people convicted of drug crimes on his last day as president. The federal sentences were cut short as part of his final act before leaving office on Jan. 20. In total, Obama commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, which was the most by any president. While in office, he commuted the sentences of 568 inmates who had been sentenced to life in prison.
It was the largest number of commutations in a single day, and it was part of Obama's goal to make up for what he saw as the consequences of unjust drug sentencing laws in the past. One man who had his sentence commuted was scheduled to serve another 10 years in prison. His conviction stemmed from a 2002 incident in which he and his brother sold cocaine and marijuana to undercover police officers.
The man will be released in January 2019, and he must enroll in a residential drug treatment program. To have been eligible for a commutation, an inmate would have had to serve at least 10 years of his or her sentence. Furthermore, those granted a commutation had to have a history of good behavior in prison and be classified as a nonviolent offender.
Those who are charged with drug offenses can face serious consequences. For instance, it may be possible to spend time in prison in addition to paying a fine or restitution. However, an attorney may be able to create defenses to the charge that makes it possible to avoid some or all of those penalties. For instance, an attorney may claim that an individual didn't know that they were in possession of a controlled substance.